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6 Tips For Flying A Great Visual Approach

A visual approach can reduce workload, but it also adds risks you need to be ready for.

1) Back Up The Visual With An IAP

Most airlines require their pilots to back up any visual approach clearance with an instrument approach procedure. Loading an IAP into your avionics adds situational awareness to make sure you're tracking a stabilized glide path to the correct runway.


2) Is Your Aiming Point Moving?

This tip goes way back to your first few flights as a student pilot. The spot you're aiming for shouldn't move up or down in your windscreen. If it's moving up in your windscreen, you're descending too fast. And if it's moving down in your windscreen, you're not descending fast enough.

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3) Turn On Airport Lighting --> Watch The PAPI or VASI

Make sure airport lighting is turned on so you can reference the VASI or PAPI as you descend towards the runway.

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4) If The Lights Disappear, Go Around

Visual approaches at night have resulted in countless CFIT accidents. If airport lights start disappearing, you're either about to fly into a cloud or hit terrain. Don't risk it, go around.

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5) Double Check The Airport's Location

Visual approaches have led to plenty of wrong-airport landings. In the past few years, an Air Force C-17 and Delta A320 both landed at incorrect airports. Local wind patterns mean many runways nearby will be aligned the same direction.


6) Plan Your Missed Approach

Unlike published instrument approach procedures, there are no published missed approaches from visual clearances. At tower controlled airports, the tower will give you missed approach instructions. At non-towered airports, it's up to you. Make sure you pre-brief your go-around scenario.

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What are other good tips for flying visual approaches? Tell us in the comments below.

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